Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 166 Prediction: Tony Ferguson vs. Mike Rio



During Mike Rio’s last fight I was getting ready to be impressed and surprised by his performance. In the early moments of the first round against a tough opponent in Francisco Trinaldo, Rio had landed a takedown and a few strikes, and really seemed to be keeping up with Trinaldo. I started thinking about how I would have to change my opinion of Rio’s abilities.

Then Trinaldo got top position and advanced to Rio’s half guard. He set up an arm-triangle choke hold and then… Rio tapped out. While Trinaldo was still in his half guard.

As unimpressive as that was, it’s a good idea to step back and look at what Rio has done in the UFC so far. He defeated John Cofer, which… is something. It’s better than losing to John Cofer. He then put up a good fight against Trinaldo for half a round. The result of Rio’s two UFC fights are that he’s even in significant strikes and up in takedowns and guard passes. His FPR is -0.88 which is quite respectable for a fighter with just 17 minutes in the UFC.

The point of this is to say: don’t be surprised if Rio gives Tony Ferguson a tough battle at UFC 166. Ferguson and Rio both have a wrestling background, but Ferguson is more a striker who mixes in takedowns while Rio goes to his takedown offense first. If Rio can put Ferguson on his back right away it will be a great start towards pulling off an upset.

Rio needs the takedowns because Ferguson is going to get the better of him standing. Michael Johnson may have exposed Ferguson’s striking defense in his last fight, but Ferguson is still very good at landing strikes of his own. He did go toe to toe with Yves Edwards, who is ancient in MMA years but still a skilled striker. Ferguson will punish Rio on the feet and perhaps even threaten to finish the fight if Rio doesn’t take him down.

The reason Ferguson has to be the pick is that while I’m very confident he can out-strike Rio (whose striking on The Ultimate Fighter left a lot to be desired), I’m not as confident in Rio’s ability to take down and control Ferguson. So far, Ferguson is five for five defending opponents’ takedowns in the UFC.

The most likely outcome is that Ferguson thwarts Rio’s attempts to grapple him and finishes him with strikes. But if Rio takes Ferguson down quickly it could turn into a different story very fast.

Pick: Tony Ferguson by TKO


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